Travel with its long flights and sitting in transport can wreck havoc on your health. But how can you avoid both while traveling?
The answer is simple: give yourself a challenge. The challenge is in the form of a fitness tracker. As Peter Drucker, an Austrian-born American management consultant, says, “What gets measured, gets managed.”
Fitness trackers aren’t just one-function pedometers anymore. Most track your steps, measure the distance you’ve walked, and time your sleep. A few even capture heart rate, perspiration, body motion, and types of sleep, including how long you spend in REM. When you use a fitness tracker in conjunction with a sleep app, you can kick jet lag.
When I’m traveling, I walk more than I do at home. A fitness tracker not only can measure the quality of my sleep, but also the distance my feet have traveled or how much water I’m consuming — two valuable measurements after recycled air and cramped quarters on flights.
So I rounded up the available fitness trackers and picked the top five based upon factors that are important while traveling:
Waterproof, minimalist design and has a watch battery rumored to last four months. It has the awesome ability to discern between swimming, walking, running, and cycling. Thanks to its jewelry-like design, you can wear this tracker in a variety of ways; like as a necklace, a watch, clipped to your pants. An interesting sidenote for you startup business fans, Misfit Shine was a successfully funded Indiegogo project. The tracker works in conjunction with an app, available on Android and iTunes.
Downside: you will need a smartphone to get info off the tracker. It doesn’t have a display on it.
Sleek wrist band that has a vibrating reminder to urge you to move if you’ve been idle for too long — perfect for a quick walk during a long flight or train ride. Also, the alarm will wake you during a lighter sleep period so you wake easier and quicker. This feature is perfect for adjusting to new time zones. The design looks more like a wrist band than a tracker busily measuring your activity. It claims to have up to 7 days of battery life.
Downside: the unusual design snags on your clothes and you need a smartphone with the app to check your info since it has no display.
A slender, comfortable wrist band holds the small Fitbit tracker. Tap on the tracker and lights show your progress to your daily 10,000 step (or any other step!) goal. The tracker works in conjunction with a smartphone app (available on Android and iTunes) which tracks your sleep, water intake, daily mileage walked, total steps, exercise with GPS monitoring, calorie intake. It even has a vibrating alarm to wake you. This is the tracker I use and I can’t wait to try it out on my next trip. My battery life is roughly one week between charges.
Downside: it doesn’t wake you during a lighter sleep period like Jawbone does.
The new kid on the block, this fitness tracker does it all for a great price. It looks like a watch, but thanks to little sensors under the face, it tracks your heart rate patterns, motion, calorie expenditure by activity, perspiration and skin temperature, and sleep cycles including REM. It’s akin to having a doctor strapped to your wrist. This tracker would be very valuable if you are traveling to hotter climates where you run the risk of dehydration and you’re on the move. Battery life is claimed to be up to 4 days. And the strap is carbon steel.
Upside: the larger display shows you info at a glance, no need to pull out the smartphone to check it.
Best part is you don’t have to charge it for a year. Reviews by the users back up that stat. When it needs new batteries, they are common batteries found at any store. This tracker does everything else all the other trackers listed do. But it also pairs with a heart rate strap. And the display provides more information like time, steps, distance, calories.
Laura blogs at Waiting To Be Read where she explores the benefits of reading and traveling, is forever making “best of” lists, and writes book reviews with actors cast as main characters.
Patrick was eating at a Olive Garden in Buffalo, New York when he should have been enjoying fresh pizza at a sun-baked cafe in Rome.
A few days earlier on Friday in Charlotte, he had been leaving on a two week trip with his girlfriend to Europe. He couldn’t wait to see Cinque Terre’s famed breathtaking cliffs and explore Paris’ countless monuments. This moment had been six months in the planning. Deep inside him, the wanderlust was pounding its fists in excitement.
But at the airport, he got an unwelcome surprise. His passport was denied for wear and tear. The airport wouldn’t allow him on his flight. They could be fined and they weren’t going to let that happen.
He was shocked. But there was no way around it. Patrick and his girlfriend watched their plane take off without them. And with it went visions of seeing Arc de Triumph and Eiffel Tower.
To salvage the remnants of their trip, they faced several challenges. First, they had to find a regional passport agency to order a new, rush passport. New Orleans and Buffalo were the only two that had availability on the next business day — Monday.
They picked Buffalo. And they sliced off segments of their itinerary, cancelling planned stops in Nice and Brussels.
Four days and $2500 to cover fees, cancellation notices, and wasted train tickets later, he was finally on the plane to Europe. But he couldn’t stop thinking about how to prevent this nightmare from happening again.
He needed a passport protector. Something hardcore, waterproof and sturdy. He needed something stronger than what a plastic baggy or leather protector could give. But he couldn’t find anything like that.
He decided to make his own. He wanted it to be “a hardcore case to withstand adventure travel but also having a innovative modern design that… looks smart enough for a business traveler.”
When he was in high school, the travel bug infected him. For him, travel isn’t just something you do — it’s a way to open your thinking. He believes that “travel creates a buffer or free space for people to interact and grow where they wouldn’t otherwise in their own comfort zone.”
While studying abroad in southern France, he fell in love with how life-changing travel can be. “Travel has opened my mind to so many ideas and my own views on life,” Patrick says. “In the States, we measure success based on our bank account; elsewhere I saw it measured in relationships. Open-mindedness, personal growth, and adventure don’t happen in a vacuum; they happen through experience.” That’s why a portion of proceeds from Passport Protector sales are donated to fund study abroad scholarships. One day he hopes to give away two scholarships a year.
It claims to be small enough to fit into a jacket pocket, impact and water-resistant, and metal-free so you can pass through certain security checkpoints. The final version will be RFID blocking for extra protection.
Never one to back down from a good challenge, I tested this little guy and here’s what I found:
Water-resistant: when I ran water over it, my documents stayed dry. When I submerged it, it floated. Good news in the event that your boat capsizes, your documents won’t sink to the ocean’s bottom. But the bad news is when I opened it up, my IDs were wet and stuck together.
Size compatibility: Fits easily into man-pants pockets, large inner pockets in jackets and my Timbuk2 bag pockets. It doesn’t really fit into girl-pants’ pockets, but then neither does anything larger than lip gloss and a credit card.
Impact resistant: I held back a little on this test for fear of possibly totally damaging the prototype (I do have to return it!). But I discovered the protector will survive if you accidentally sat on it, or sleep on your bag in an airport. The hard plastic bends slightly, but doesn’t break. It also doesn’t seem to scratch easily.
- The smooth, hard feel of the plastic case. It feels sturdy. It feels like it can handle what I dish out.
- It’s wide enough to fit my passport (and my husband’s), some money and credit cards. Possibly, it could fit an ID if you did some creative arranging.
- Water resistant: I’m the person who’s forever spilling coffee or beer on herself. My gear needs to be able to withstand an unexpected soaking.
- The rubber top on my prototype was a little hard to finagle. The rubber tab to keep the top in place wouldn’t stay in the hole. But that’s just a preliminary issue. Patrick says the final lid will close tighter on the finished model.
- Not completely waterproof. Again, this seems to be a prototype quirk. I’m told the final version will have a more rigid rubber top. Hopefully that means it’ll be completely waterproof as well.
- It doesn’t fit my phone. My iPhone is just a smidgeon too wide to fit into the case.
You can get one during Passport Protector’s crowdfunding campaign that ends June 9th. Here’s the link: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-passport-protector
If you miss that, sign up at their website for notifications when the final version is ready.
Laura blogs at Waiting To Be Read where she explores the benefits of reading and traveling, is forever making “best of” lists, and writes book reviews with actors cast as main characters.
It’s the worst part of traveling: being so tired that you miss the amazing sights you traveled miles to see. Instead, you spend your first few days of your trip, curled up in your bed, sound asleep. Have you ever landed in the new country only to feel bone-tired, pounding headache, and an overwhelming apathy?
Welcome to jet lag. This is your body complaining about crossing too many time zones. Jet lag naturally takes about three to four days to overcome. Thankfully, there are a couple proven ways to lessen jet lag to avoid sleeping away your trip.
Since there are varied approaches to combating jet lag, I’ve broken this post down into three main categories: jet lag apps, sleep aids, and natural methods.
Focused on light exposure, these apps help you maximize your exposure to sunlight. The amount and quality of sunlight readjusts your circadian cycles or your biological clock.
The newest jet lag app. Based on the proven idea of light exposure to help re-adjust sleep schedules, this app was invented by the scientists at the University of Michigan. The app gives you a schedule to follow to maximize the brightest and darkest times of the day so you adjust to your new time zone better. Sounds like they’re already working on tweaks, like if men are differently affected than women.
Cost: right now the app is free, so the scientists can test it.
One of the more popular jet lag apps. This also tracks your sleep schedule and exposure to sunlight. From what I can tell, it also spits out a customized daily schedule for when to wake, seek bright light, and exercise so you adjust faster.
Cost: $2.99 on Apple.
Trouble sleeping at the right time? Perhaps your body needs a little nudge to get the hint.
Drown out ambient noises and create a peaceful environment while you sleep. If you plan ahead, you can train before the trip to fall asleep with a white noise machine on. Once you get used to it, you’d be surprised how quickly sleep comes when you switch the machine on. I’ve heard using a white noise machine while traveling with children and babies works especially well for helping them sleep.
Cost: $40-150. I like Marsona Travel Sound Conditioner TSC-330 due to its lightweight, slender design, and voltage that’s suitable for any country.
A hormone that helps alter your circadian cycles, this supplement will help you adapt to a new timezone quickly. It tricks your body into thinking its bedtime. Doctors recommend taking a higher dose if you’re heading into the future (or east), and a very low dose if you’re heading west. It’s recommended to take this two hours before bedtime and don’t go take too much or you’ll wake up foggy the next morning.
America’s favorite nighttime sleep-aid that will help you get to sleep and stay asleep. Be forewarned, it doesn’t help you combat jet lag. It only helps you sleep when you should. This is not my preferred option since I don’t like the morning-after drug fogginess. But it could help you sleep on the long flight to your destination and calm the jittery excitement. You might need a doctor’s prescription to get it.
Not a big fan of drugs or using technology on the road? Don’t worry, there’s a few natural ways to combat jet lag.
A common cause of jet lag is dehydration. Start drinking water before your flight, during your flight and afterwards. Experts recommend drinking 1 liter of water for every hour you’re up in the air. Yes, you’ll probably be up and down for the bathroom a lot, but moving around on long flights has another benefit: avoiding blood clots. So you tackle two birds with one stone with this option.
Cost: refillable water bottle (about $20) and water fountains (free).
Rumored to be the best way to combat jet lag. Exercise helps reset your body’s circadian clock. If you exercise the morning after arrival, your body will naturally and quickly adjust to the new time. Don’t just exercise during your trip — also exercise before your trip to get the biggest benefit.
Cost: running shoes ($30-80). If you’re not a runner, do exercises using your body’s weight like yoga or calisthenics, or stay in a hotel with gym access.
Occasionally sleep won’t come because your thoughts are racing. If you’re not a fan of Ambien or other drugs, try essential sleep oils. Essential sleep oils help calm your mind for sleep. You apply a few drops of oil on your wrists and soles of your feet. On the road, I’ve used an essential oil blend with the white noise machine for deep sleep in new beds. Also awesome is the bottle is usually only 15 mL or so — well below the carry-on liquid limit.
Cost: $10-40 a bottle. I really like Doterra Serenity Calming blend.
Laura blogs at www.lauralopuch.com where she explores the benefits of reading and traveling, makes tons of lists, and writes book reviews with actors cast as main characters.
A good backpack can make or break a trip. Drenching rain, language barriers, delayed flights — you can weather all with humor and go-get-’em attitude.
But a good backpack is the foundation upon which your trip rests. It holds your entire life in one place. It protects it. Sometimes you wear it so often it feels like another appendage.
That’s why it’s important to take some time before your trip to figure out what kind of new appendage — or backpack — works for you. Next to figuring out which book to take with me, this decision was the most important on my two-week trip to Europe.
After lots of research, I decided on Osprey Packs Kestrel 48 backpack for three reasons:
But the true test came after wearing my pack for two solid weeks. Included in that time were some very long midnight wanderings in suburban Rome searching for our hotel, running through train stations and for vaporettos, and getting shoved under train seats.
How are you planning to use your pack? Will you be hiking or walking a lot? Do you need it to be water-repellant?
If you’ll be walking with it a lot, pick one with an interior frame and hip belt to redistribute the weight off your shoulders. Water-resistance is a good thing to consider, so check for a rain cover. You can’t always control the weather, but it’s nice to know your stuff won’t get soaked.
You want a pack that wears its age and travels well. You don’t want to deal with broken zippers or rips on the road.
Look for fabric at least 400 denier nylon packcloth with a urethane coating (aka water-repellant). Test the zippers. Do some Google searches on “broken zipper + pack name” to see how it stands up.
A good place to check out long-term durability is reading Amazon’s reviews on the pack; you get a wide smattering of opinions to help your decision.
Do you want to access the bag just from the top (top-loading pack)? Or from the top and bottom (called the sleeping bag compartment)? Exterior pockets or no pockets?
These are things to consider if you want to lock your bag. The more access points into your bag equals more locks you need.
Ah, the clincher. Getting a pack that’s too big will restrict your ability to carry it on the plane. Getting a pack too small will curtail your purchasing abilities.
It’s a really good idea to check out the bags in person. After all, this is gear that interacts with your body. Like shoes, how it feels on you will impact how you feel about the trip.
Play around with the packs. Try them on. Figure out how it feels on your back and do a few spins to check your bull in a china shop prowess. The empty pack should feel light and not too bulky on your back.
For me, the perfect capacity size was 48: still small enough for carry on, but large enough for clothes and extras picked up along the way.
Backpacks come in three sizes: small, medium and large. The sizes are determined by your torso length, not your height.
Here’s a general guide to figuring out the pack size from your torso length:
|Men’s and Women’s|
|Pack Size||Torso Length|
|Extra small||Up to 15½”|
|Small||16″ to 17½”|
|Medium/Regular||18″ to 19½”|
Generally, compared to men’s packs, women’s packs are:
But really, it comes down to how the pack feels on you. Even though I’m a woman, I picked a men’s pack based on how it fit me and what it looked like. Oh — and that it had good pockets.
Read more by Laura at Waiting To Be Read.
There’s something to be said for getting lost.
I rather like it, actually. Taking off with no destination, exploring a city by braille, and the serendipity that inevitably arises as a result are intoxicating. There are days in which the last thing I want is a map, or directions, or to “get there” in the most expeditious manner.
And then… there are the other days. The days when I’m lost and it’s maybe not comfortable, or fun, or safe. There’s that moment when you look around and think, “Well this is no good…” and you realize you’re in the wrong neighbourhood, it’s almost dark and you have no idea where you are.
My husband pointed me towards an article about new app called Kovert this week that is a savvy solution in that moment. It’s a GPS for your phone that gives directions via vibration in your pocket rather than voice or visual. One blast for port, two for starboard; that kind of thing. So now, you’re walking down the street, feeling your directions instead of with your nose in your phone display. Your mind and your eyes are free to take in your surroundings. You’re not painting a target on your ass with the double whammy of an expensive piece of equipment and the announcement that you’ve got no idea where you are since you’re clearly following it down the street.
I like this idea from two perspectives: 1. increasing safety and decreasing the presence of obvious high-theft items. 2. increasing presence in a place instead of face time with a device.
What are your thoughts? Any travel apps that enhance your experience?
Engineers at UCLA are working on converting an iPhone into a small laboratory. Weighting less than 2 ounces, the iTube attaches to your phone and analyzes a food sample in about 20 minutes using a colorimetric assay test. The user grinds up a small sample of food with hot water and places it in the tube along with an extraction solvent. After several other testing liquids are added; the phone then captures an image of the sample using its built-in camera and a program app optically analyzes the image for allergen particles down to parts per million. It doesn’t just confirm the presence or absence of peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, eggs or gluten; it also tells the amount within the sample.
As someone who suffers from severe food allergies; the possibility of such a gadget intrigues me. However I am still skeptical. When in doubt about the specific ingredients of a food, I simply opt not to eat it. True, this practice limits my culinary variety but I figure I can find thrills other ways.
How about you? If you suffer from food allergies would you consider the iTube a useful gadget for home or travel use?
Business travelers, also known as “road warriors,” are some of the most experienced trip hackers around. Although here at Vagabonding we espouse slower wandering, these hard-core types have streamlined the process to a science. Their advice appeared in this New York Times article: How the tough get going: Silicon Valley travel tips. Prominently featured in the article is Tim Ferriss, known as the author of “The 4-Hour Workweek” and the “The 4-Hour Body.”
Naturally, there are many websites and apps that get mentioned. It’s interesting to see these guys apply a hacker ethic of “lighter, faster, more efficient” to their journeys.
My favorite tip was how to get a new charger and adapter fast if you lose yours. Ask your hotel to see their “lost and found” box. If you’re staying at a place that gets a lot of businesspeople, a lot of those things get accidentally left behind.
The CLEARcard was new to me. This enables cardholders to pass through airport security faster. While it’s a useful tool, a quick check of their website reveals that the card can only be used in four airports. If the card were more widely accepted, it would be more handy.
I did research, and found Global Entry. This is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that can help members speed through security. Global Entry has been deployed in many major American airports, making it far more convenient than CLEARcard.
Some of the advice was risky though, like packing a starter pistol and declaring the firearm to TSA, as a way of making sure airport staff don’t lose your bag. With security being a big concern these days, this is not something I would recommend to anyone.
How do you pack light for your trips? Any tips for speeding up the check-in and boarding process? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
“The travel pillow for people who hate travel pillows!”~ thetravelhalo.com
Booking overnight transportation can reduce the number of nights one stays in hostels or hotels; but adequate rest in the upright position is challenging. And honestly, most travel pillows out there aren’t worth the space and effort to bring along.
I’ve field tested a number of different kinds…
1) Complementary ones on the planes
2) Rectangular ones filled with foam beads
3) The U-shaped kind packed with buckwheat or made from memory foam (both materials are heavy)
4) And one in the shape of a tube, that snaps together around your neck along with a battery operated vibrator
The last one I mentioned works fairly well but still is cumbersome to pack if you’re aiming to travel super lite.
Mike Vahey went back to the drawing board, removed the bulkiness of other designs and created a palm-size product which launched June 21st, 2012 on a crowd-source funding website called Indiegogo. “The Travel Halo” is a stretchy band that fits around your forehead uniquely designed with two foam pads spaced to prevent your head from rolling side to side. The material is a cotton/lycra blend, appears to be resistant to pulls from things like Velcro abrasion, is easily washable and will air dry if need be. Built into the band is a double-ply flip-down eye mask to block light. It’s also large enough to drape over eyeglasses.
“The travel halo” is most effective being used in a sitting position. But out of curiosity, I did try a supine position on a carpet, hardwood floor, camp mat, and a regular bed mattress. It proved comfortable with all those as well. The dog did lick my glasses while floor testing so perhaps the eye mask can double as a lick shield too! The only difference I noticed between sitting up vs lying down was slightly more play from side to side due to the full weight of my head pressing down.
If you are not familiar with a site like Indiegogo, it’s one of many world-wide platforms to raise money for projects. Click here to learn more.
As I said before, “The Travel Halo” was launched recently and is not yet available in stores. You can pre-order one (or more) starting today, June 28th through July 21st 2012 by clicking here to help fund the product campaign and join one of the nine “perk” categories.
I’ll be happy to have one when I travel.
Warning for men: if talk about female cycles makes you uncomfortable or queasy I’d suggest you skip this post!
Ladies, we can’t all live in the remaining hunter-gatherer cultures where ones menstrual cycle is a sacred celebration. Nor are we still band from our own households for three days like the old laws in Nepal. And frankly I doubt if I strip naked to walk through a field, anyone would still believe that I was warding away storms and ridding the crops of pests like they did in Ancient Rome. Instead most of us reside (or travel) where ‘that time of the month’ makes us feel like crap and becomes an extra hassle; to carry or find supplies can be cumbersome. The traditional methods of tampons or pads still can bleed into awkward moments. For example, when all our travel buddies are going swimming, and we’ve got to make up an excuse rather than announce to everyone were on the ‘rag’.
History aside, years ago while reading a travel blog I came across a post about menstrual cups. They are a rubber or silicone device which you can insert to gather blood, then simply empty and reuse for many years. At first it’s slightly strange getting accustomed to them, but afterwards you’ll be thankful to have made the switch! Technically the little cups were first made in the 60’s; but new designs work better and are widely available. For those of you located in the Americas, Diva Cup is a good brand. In Europe, Lady Cup seems to be the favorite. Their website is also offered in twenty language translations. Of course each time it’s emptied it must be rinsed. If you’ve got no access to water or the microbes might be questionable have some wet-wipes handy like swipes or intimate wipes.
As a final note, during the “No Baggage Challenge” another of our vagablogging team members referenced these cups in her advice for a female version of the trip around the globe with no bags.
Merino wool has been touted as an ideal travel clothing material thanks especially to its breathability, odor resistance and fast-drying abilities. I stocked up on a few lightweight merino wool items before leaving for my trip two months ago, and I quickly gained a favorite among the brands and also learned some other benefits of the material.
There are numerous brands of merino wool products; Icebreaker, EMU Australia, Smartwool and Ibex are among the largest and most popular. My items are all Icebreaker and EMU Australia because I like their styles and fits. I found Smartwool’s pieces to be too itchy and mostly for cold weather, which didn’t suit my needs for Latin America.
After two months wearing these items almost daily, I’ve made several observations:
I’d worn merino wool sweaters and found them to be slightly itchy, so I was curious how the lightweight merino wool would feel. At first, the shirts from both brands were a little itchy, but after just a wear or two, they felt fine. I find the Icebreaker version to be a bit softer and more comfortable.
I’d always associated wool with coats and cold-weather clothing, so I was curious to see how the lightweight merino wool held up in the hot climates and during outdoor activities. It turned out to be extremely breathable – never got sweaty or hot. I found this to be especially true with the Icebreaker pieces.
I always get a bit skeptical when clothing says it’s wrinkle-resistent – especially when it comes in a package and is wrinkly when I take it out. That was the case with these items, but I found that once you put them on, the wrinkles go away. They get wrinkly again after being stuffed in the backpack, but the issue is quickly resolved during wear. Again, the Icebreaker pieces overcame wrinkles faster and better than the EMU pieces.
This is one area where EMU beats Icebreaker, in my opinion. While Icebreaker’s styles are more athletic and simple, EMU offers a wider variety of styles that can pass for everyday or even workwear, such as this t-shirt and this cardigan. This sets it apart from typical travel clothes.
However, a style downside of the particular EMU items that I bought is that they are see-through. This means I have to wear a cami under it, and since my cami isn’t merino wool it sort of defeats the purpose.
Icebreaker does have some non-athletic styles, such as the Villa Dress that I have, and they seem to be adding more.
All the items are lightweight and roll up small, but Icebreakers’ are significantly smaller and lighter.
This is the biggest downside of my EMU shirts. After one wash, the material pilled up (although this might have been due to being washed and dried in a machine), and I found that it stretched more easily and stains didn’t come out. Overall, the Icebreaker shirts feel more sturdy and durable.
Travelers, what have you found to be the benefits of merino wool? Do you have any favorite brands or items?